Commuting data is increasingly used to describe population mobility in epidemic models. However, there is little evidence that the spatial spread of observed epidemics agrees with commuting. Here, using data from 25 epidemics for influenza-like illness in France (ILI) as seen by the Sentinelles network, we show that commuting volume is highly correlated with the spread of ILI. Next, we provide a systematic analysis of the spread of epidemics using commuting data in a mathematical model. We extract typical paths in the initial spread, related to the organization of the commuting network. These findings suggest that an alternative geographic distribution of GP accross France to the current one could be proposed. Finally, we show that change in commuting according to age (school or work commuting) impacts epidemic spread, and should be taken into account in realistic models.